Dog Walking, Dog Ownership & Social Capital

Updated: Feb 3

Results from "Dog ownership, dog walking, and social capital"

Koohsari MJ, Yasunaga A, Shibata A, Ishii K, Miyawaki R, Araki K, Nakaya T, Hanibuchi T, McCormack GR & Koichiro O


Dog Walking, Social Capital & Health Outcomes

Dog ownership has recently become more popular, with 17% of households in Japan and 35% of households in Canada owning a dog, increasing interest in public health research surrounding dog-ownership (1). There have been many positive health-related outcomes of dogs as companions, with dog walking being important for these outcomes (2). Additionally, there has been consistent evidence supporting positive associations between dog ownership, dog walking and physical activity (3). Social capital, which can be defined as the resources and benefits available to individuals or groups through their social connections, has been identified as a possible explanation for these dog-related health links as dogs may encourage this positive social behaviour within neighbourhoods (4). Studies have also identified physical and mental benefits associated with fostering social capital (5). A recent study explored associations between dog ownership and dog walking with social capital scores and considered how these associations may differ by age group.

Associations between Dog Walking, Dog Ownership & Social Capital

The study took place between October and November of 2016, and 3606 adults living in the town of Minanmi-Izu in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture were included. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire which assessed the two social capital scores of social cohesion, and activities with neighbours, and considered dog ownership and dog walking. Dog owners were also questioned on how often they walked their dog, and they were defined as dog walkers if they walked their dog for at least 10 minutes per week. Of dog owners, 44% (51% of young-to-middle-aged adults) reported that they did not walk their dog. Among young-to-middle-aged dog owners, dog owner walkers reported significantly higher social capital scores, specifically activities with neighbours, than dog owner non-walkers. The study highlights dog walking as a possible motivation for neighbourhood social benefits within young-to-middle-aged adults. Future research can improve the use of dog-based behavioural health interventions for fostering social capital.

Suggested Citation:

Koohsari MJ, Yasunaga A, Shibata A, Ishii K, Miyawaki R, Araki K, Nakaya T, Hanibuchi T, McCormack GR, Koichiro O. Dog ownership, dog walking, and social capital. Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 2021 May 25;8(1):1–6.

Writing and infographic by Hallie Horvath; Posted January 31, 2021



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